Police escorted a Mount Laurel man from his home and into custody on Monday while more than 100 people protested outside in response to a viral video that showed him shouting racial slurs at his neighbors.
Police had already charged 45-year-old Edward Cagney Mathews with bias intimidation and harassment in the incident Friday, after a resident on the 3800 block of Grammercy Way reported that she has been “continually harassed” by him. He will face an additional charge after the prosecutor’s office reviewed additional footage from the incident and determined Mathews spit on the victim, said Mount Laurel Police Spokesman Kyle Gardner.
Protesters crowded outside his condo in the Essex Place Condominiums development Monday for hours, shouting for him to come out and verbally confronting the police officers who were standing outside his door. The tense scene erupted when police went into Mathews home and escorted him out and into a police car following the filing of the new charge.
The crowds surrounding him cheered and yelled, with some throwing plastic water and juice bottles at Mathews as he was walked to the vehicle. Police Chief Steve Riedener said at a press conference Monday night that officers were also pelted with the bottles and some were hit by pepper spray from some protesters.
None were injured, he said, noting that the majority of the protesters were peaceful. After Mathews was taken from his home, protesters smashed his condo’s windows and police in riot gear pushed them away from the area. Riedener said all video footage will be reviewed as part of their investigation into that property damage.
Those gathered in the usually quiet neighborhood said Mathews’ racist behavior has been an ongoing issue in the community and are not satisfied with the police response to the incident caught on camera.
A six-minute video of Friday’s incident, which police said depicts Matthews in the act of the harassment, recently circulated on social media. The video shows Mathews on the doorstep of a Black man. He repeatedly uses racial slurs toward the Black man and refuses to leave the property before telling the man to “come see me” and stating his home address.
The final minute of the video shows Mathews screaming with an arriving officer and yelling the N-word multiple times. Mathews curses at the officer, who tells Mathews to “cut it out” and return home a number of times while trying to speak with the victim.
At a press conference shortly before 9 p.m., Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina discussed the additional charges against Mathews and commended the victim who was targeted by Mathews in the video.
“He showed incredible restraint with someone spewing awful, vile things in his face and assaulting him,” Coffina said. “He didn’t deserve that. None of the residents deserve that. No one should ever feel unsafe in their home.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer reached Mathews via phone Monday, reporting that he apologized for his behavior, saying he had been drunk.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting an encounter like that and certainly wasn’t expecting to disrespect anybody,” Mathews told the Inquirer. “Let me be clear: That is no excuse for what I said, but I lost my temper.”
Marcus Sibley, president of the Southern Burlington NAACP, said Mathews has been harassing Black residents in the neighborhood for at least three years and police had been notified in the past.
“The main thing that makes you shake your head is how in the world has this gone unaddressed… We’re looking for reform. When we say that we feel intimidated, we feel like we’re being hurt and harmed, we would love for the response to be ‘This is wrong. This is inhumane. This is disrespectful, and we are going to prosecute at the fullest extent of the law, so other people learn this isn’t how you treat people.’”
Throughout Monday, Sibley said the protesters were calling for additional charges against Mathews.
“We’ve seen people get shot for less. And (Mathews) not only used one of the most demeaning terms you can give to a Black person, he said it with no hesitation, but he also said it once the police officer came and cursed at the police officer,” Sibley said.
Gardner defended the police response, saying the officer was attempting to de-escalate the situation by telling Mathews to go home. He said the department is familiar with Mathews from previous complaints, but that in past cases, a lot of the evidence was circumstantial.
At the press conference, Riedener said when residents complained in the past, police were either not able to find probable cause to file charges, or the charges were dismissed in court. The video from Friday’s incident changed that.
The township’s mayor and council released a statement Monday denouncing Mathew’s racism and “acts of hate like it.”
“To say that we are appalled by the disturbing and vicious act of hate which was caught on camera would be an understatement,” the statement read. “This man’s actions do not reflect who we are as a community nor out values. Nobody should be made to feel unsafe or unwelcome in their own neighborhood let alone in their hometown.”
Among those protesting earlier Monday was Tia Brown of Lawrence, who said she was upset by the video because she believes the cop who responded was almost friendly to Matthews.
“They had a conversation with him like it was nothing,” she said, pointing that Matthews seemed comfortable verbally assaulting the victim in the cop’s presence. “No one should have to deal with a neighbor like that.”
Brown’s friend Jessie Hendricks of Ewing said the video shows a double standard in the policing of Black and white people, saying a Black person behaving the way Mathews did would have received harsher treatment from cops.
Coffina said Mathews was arrested on a warrant will have a first court date within three days.